July 26, 2008

Room for Improvement

Yesterday I threw out six trash bags of trash from our house. SIX trash bags. And that's just the TRASH: not stuff "good enough to give away," but containers of dried-out Play-Doh, scattered beads, a stack of Gymboree gift boxes I'm never going to use, cheap trinket-type toys, paper airplanes, and pieces of broken toys.

This is the kind of task that is equal parts satisfying and discouraging. The satisfaction is obvious: six bags of trash removed is a clear improvement. But it's also so discouraging: how did things get this bad? and how can there still be so much left to do?

The clutter book I'm reading is equal parts annoying and useful. I think all self-help books are annoying, and this one keeps cheesing me off with its tone. But here are the useful things I'm already putting into practice:

1) You can only have as much stuff as you have room for.

2) If it's so important, why is it in a never-opened box in the basement?

3) Stop bringing more stuff IN.

4) If you're not using it, give it to someone who can, or else get rid of it.

5) What does this item represent?

That last one is for things like, why am I saving a big pile of still-in-their-packages child-proofing devices, when it's clear that if we haven't used them by Baby #5 we're not GOING to use them? And the answer is that when I own these items, it makes me feel like I own Safety. It also applies to things like books, where people often feel that they've purchased Information. And it applies to heirlooms and keepsakes that are in boxes in the basement, where people often feel like they're storing Memories they'd otherwise lose.

I find this concept exceedingly cheezy---and yet useful and applicable, which explains why I'm a little crabby. It turns out I am saving a number of things in case of Apocalyptic Situations and/or Economic Depressions. I feel like if I have piles of fabric and twenty-five pounds of dried beans, then I will be all set in case of zombies, nuclear disaster, and/or economic ruin.

Pay-it-forward updates:

Cookiemonks has her new contest up---it's Etsy-themed, with a choice of prizes.


Astarte said...

While I don't particularly care for this guy when he's on Clean Sweep, I DO find myself using his techniques when I'm dealing with clutter. I think I might like his book more than him, the person, because what I don't like about him is how he can be kind of belligerent with homeowners who just. want. their. grandma's. cat. collection. Or whatever. But, I totally use the 'three piles' concept.

SIX bags! Holy crap!!!!! Good for you!!!

Tracy said...

It doesn't matter what was in the bags. SIX bags? Amazing! I love chucking things. I seem to hold on to toys that are from dear friends or my mom where really they will never get played again. I am also convinced I am saving almost all of my little people, boxing them up and keeping them for grandkids. My girls play with my old toys when we visit grandmas and it is such a neat feeling for me. Good job. I am inspired to find something to throw away!

Erica said...

To make it even MORE cheezy: It sounds like you might be cleaning out some mental clutter, too. That's always a good thing.

Stacey said...

Six bags is impressive! I never manage more than 2 before I start feeling like I might be too zealous & throwing away stuff we might really need - like old shoe boxes. Someday the boys will be in middle school and need them for dioramas or something and then I would have to go out and buy new shoes.

wait a minute! I may need to purge this weekend!

Jess said...

I think I could benefit from that book. Except that if I tried to read it, I'd probably be infuriated.

Still, today is Cleanup Day in our apartment, and I will try to keep those principles in mind.

Erin said...

Great job with the six bags. Six bags is a huge step in the right direction, no matter how big the total job is.

That last question is an interesting one. I think most of the things I hoard are a result of the things representing something. But I'm not sure realizing that will get me very far to throwing things out.

Sarah M. said...

Wow, 6 bags? GO YOU!!!

Amelia Sprout said...

Six bags is a lot, but I'm pretty sure we removed more when we moved last time. The tone would bug me, but I suspect mostly because it is stuff I need to hear,but don't want to.

Being prepared for zombies is nothing to be ashamed of. We should all be prepared for the zombies.

Swistle said...

Erin- Ha! I know! Childproof devices still tucked away in my closet? ALL. But I did get rid of some books I'm never going to read again that represented Information, and I got rid of a bunch of gift boxes that represented Me Being The Sort Of Person Who Uses Gift Boxes.

Jen - Mom of 4 said...

Way to go with the decluttering! I started on my garage,um, 2 months ago, and it sat in a tornado explosion for most of it. But today I fianlly tackled it and threw 4 bags of trash and realized that I really need to address #2. Congrats - give yourself a high five!

Stimey said...

I've been working on this sort of thing for a while now (chronicled at The Junk Pyramid). I've found that the first pass at the clutter is the hardest. I'm a huge packrat but I am soooo good at getting rid of things now. If you don't use it/can't use it/forgot about it, get rid of it.

(See how annoyingly self-helpy I can be?

Michelle said...

I'm with you on keeping items "just in case" -- and sometimes the just in case comes. But other times I discover things that have been sitting around for a bit too long!

Six bags is impressive! If I truly went through everything, I'm sure I could find well more than six bags' worth. But I'm not trying right now! Good luck.

Pann said...

Yay for 6 bags!

We are kind of in sync because I just piled up three big boxes of paper/cardboard recycling as well as three bags of plain old trash, along the lines of what you got rid of.

NOW, if I can only remember to put it on the curb before wednesday morn!

Kristi said...

I spent last week organizing my daughter's room and threw away 4 bags of junk. I couldn't believe there was so much!! Glad someone else is in the same boat! New house rule...when she gets a new toy she must get rid of one she doesn't play with anymore!!!

Jen said...

6 bags! i'm so proud of you for preservering over your crabbiness!

i know i didn't win a contest or anything but, could you just box up some of your motivation and send it to me at the new house? thanks, because my approach to unpacking - sitting like a lump and looking at the millions of boxes and wanting to cry - isn't getting me very far.